Note I said influencers, not all bloggers or podcasters or online magazines and other media sites.
If you started blogging and posting online expressly to generate eyeballs that you can sell to advertisers, then by all means, design yourself a media kit and start hawking those numbers.
However, here’s the first hint at why I think influencers shouldn’t be sending media kits – it’s a media kit. Do a search for media kit in Google and take a look at who shows up – big media sites that sell big advertising. Yes they show up first because they’re huge, but that’s my point. They’re huge. By using a media kit, to present your stats and rates, you are directly competing with media sites, their huge traffic and far more cost effective CPMs (how much an advertiser pays to reach 1,000 people/eyeballs).
Yep, pretty much every one of those media sites (even the smaller independent ones) are bigger and better at this game than you. Facebook advertising is better at this game than you, and cheaper. You can back yourself and try and get some points on the scoreboard . . . or you can play a different game.
Influencers have something way more valuable than impressions and eyeballs – they have influence! So why, why, why do bloggers (especially) insist on creating media kits highlighting reach, impressions, social media followers and then slap a rate card on it? If you act like media, you will be treated as media – a platform for an advertiser’s advertising message – measured in impressions, clicks, likes and other hollow metrics. Don’t kid yourself that your ‘influence’ is measured in any other way (most of the time*). All too often all of your efforts are aggregated (along with all the other bloggers on the campaign) into one line on a media plan or report – total reach, impressions, interactions gained for the client/brand.
Here’s something else to think about – if you value your influence, credibility, expertise and the time it takes you to create content and you factor that into your rates – you’re too expensive for most campaigns. The person running the campaign or managing the budget is likely more interested in outputs rather than inputs. So long as the end quality is similar, the blogger (or Facebook ad) who can do it faster, cheaper and achieve the same level of outputs (however relevant they are), will win.
Notice I’m referring to ‘outputs’ here, not outcomes? The better marketing and brand managers and the more reputable agencies will/should be more focused on both the quality of the input and outcomes against objectives. In my book ‘number of likes’ isn’t an objective on it’s own. If the objective really is to use an influencer to influence your target audience, then buying ‘media’ isn’t the way to do it. Influencer marketing is about more than awareness. Awareness is cheap, but it’s not always effective. I had to laugh at Ramsay’s tweet recently . . .
— Ramsay (@BlogTyrant) September 25, 2015
So what’s an influencer to do? Like I said, play a different game.
I’m going to assume that the main reason you started blogging, writing online, podcasting, instagramming etc was one or more of the following:
- To create a community around a topic you’re passionate/knowledgeable about
- To practice and showcase your writing skills for the love of it, or for freelance work
- To show your thought leadership and promote your profession/business
- To build a business creating content and products/services for a dedicated audience/community
- The list surely goes on
The main value proposition in all of these scenarios is your influence due to established credibility and trust with your community. It’s not just advertising space for sale.
Responding to calls for one off campaigns, sponsored posts and ads is reactive. How likely is it that one of the select few brands you would love to work with is going to come knocking and offer you an amazing deal where you both collaborate to create awesome content, products and experiences for your audience? Yep, not often. You’re going to have get proactive to achieve the kind of brand partnership you can be proud to announce to your community.
So the game isn’t ‘how many sponsored posts can I get away with?’ or ‘how many ads can I sell before the client realises everyone is ignoring or blocking them?”. The game is – how can I work with a brand in a way that helps me do awesome things for my readers/community/listeners/customers? If you do this with a brand whose values are aligned with yours, then they will benefit from a relationship with you, and over time, with your audience. It’s a long term game, not a short one that keeps changing from week to week.
A longer term partnership also provides the opportunity to measure outcomes that are more relevant to your influence, through surveying your audience and monitoring their conversations about the brand over time. Often the ROI expected of influencers for a short term campaign is unreasonable – we want everyone who reads your blog to instantly know what we are and then click through and buy/do something – go! Where’s the relationship building?! It can work in some spaces such as fashion and beauty where magazines set the precedence to stimulate high demand consumerism behaviours, but it doesn’t work for all online business models.
So first things first – stop sending out a media kit. Here’s why:
Firstly, it’s lazy. If you really cared about the brand, why on earth just send a media kit? You should be calling or emailing them at the very least and trying to find out what they want and what they’re interested in. Then you follow up with a customised proposal or idea pitch and only send them relevant stats and evidence to back it up. Given the number of people who do just send a media kit when requested, the reply email or phone call alone will ensure you stand out in the crowd.
(By the way, if you don’t care about the brand enough to send a customised proposal, why on earth are you still sending your media kit? Will the prospect of getting paid make it easier for you to try and ‘make it work’ for your audience? Think very hard about what sending a media kit in these instances is saying about you and your brand, especially if you send it in response to a blind request from an agency)
Secondly, influence is contextual and most media kits are one dimensional. An arbitrary set of stats is just going to get you compared to someone else’s arbitrary set of stats. Influence is not just about audience numbers. Depending on the opportunity on the table, a ‘smaller’ blogger can be the better influencer to go with than a ‘bigger’ blogger. Some key details of those stats will make all the difference to how well suited you are as an influencer. For example, what percentage of those high unique users are from the same country, state or city that the brand is targeting? How many of those pageviews are for new content vs search traffic to old content? How many of your ‘females aged 25-44’ have children between 2-5 years old? How many shares on average do your Facebook posts get for sponsored content? Most of the stats I see in media kits don’t tell you this. A customised proposal will.
Thirdly, sending a media kit is like setting up your profile on Tinder (far too easy for someone to swipe left) vs making a phone call to ask for a date (no matter how nervous)! Just like you, the best brands want to see some effort in relationship building. Approach them as you would like to be approached – there’s no room for entitlement in a mutually beneficial partnership.
Lastly, it’s largely up to you to change the way brands work with influencers. Sending your media kit is reinforcing the status quo. Being selective and proactive is hard work, but ultimately far more rewarding than dealing with poor pitches, accepting sponsored posts you wished you hadn’t, and the risk of eroding your credibility with your community/audience/customers.
* Oh yes, there was an asterix up there somewhere. I realise I’ve painted a fairly grim picture of how the game is currently being played, but it’s all from my own experiences, observations, and discussions with others. Thankfully there are some awesome agencies and brands who are more progressive and focused on the right objectives and outcomes and put more effort into identifying the right influencers and developing relationships with them.